Quick Thinking and Compassion


eileen2_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title Quick Thinking and Compassion
Synopsis Emily brings Eileen up to speed on the situation.
Date February 17, 2019

Safe Zone Border

"So, I found Magnes." Emily says while reaching into the pocket of her shoulder-bag. She shakes her head while she searches for what she's looking for. "He didn't take the news well, at all. But I was able to calm him down some, point him in a direction that's not the settlement…"

The photograph of the family curled up reading together is slid free, and she takes a moment to look at it herself before tilting it out to offer to Eileen. "In return, he wanted to make sure this got to her."

Tongue pressed into her cheek for a moment, she considers something carefully before speaking again. "I didn't tell him about you, about where she is. I didn't think he could be trusted with that information." is straightforward to say, but Emily's voice takes on a discomforted curl as she explains, "He said her mother was murdered recently. He's not got a lot of patience." A brief pause is taken to breathe in and speak more quietly. "He almost snapped when I told him he needed to wait. I'm not entirely sure he won't, depending on how long things take."

Emily dares a glance up to silently pose the question of just how long that might be.

“Thank you for your discretion.”

Eileen’s words are meant for Emily, but her eyes are on the photograph. “If he acts at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, more people are going to die than just the girl’s mother.”

Elaine. Her thumb curves along the edge of the redhead’s profile: her slim jaw and impish nose. “In many ways,” she says, “Addie was safer with— us,” and her voice hitches, hesitating, “them, I mean. My other self. Ramirez, Danko, Lang. Their course was direct. A straight line. I don’t know how many other worlds Magnes must have passed through on his way back to this one.”

She folds the photograph in two halves between her fingers and tucks it into the breast pocket of her coat. February snow drifts down from a dark gray sky that’s at odds with the ambient glow produced by the city’s lights reflecting off the ice underfoot and the mirrored windows of Yamagato shining brightly in the distance.

As far as meeting places go, there are worse locations they could have chosen than the edge of the Safe Zone.

“Addie loves Joshua,” Eileen confesses. “I see it in the way she looks at him. And he at her. No matter how we do it, it means heartbreak for everyone who’s involved.”

We is a word Emily takes pause at, reflecting how it makes her more than a mere messenger. The long, silent breath she exhales is betrayed only the thin tendrils of air warm enough to steam.

"I was hoping for a happier ending than that," Emily confesses in return. "I don't know the situation at all, but Joshua would be unwilling to work things out, it sounds like?" Her head shakes stiffly, voice cautious as she asks, "How did this happen, anyway? How did she end up with you, and not with her parents?"

She's capable of putting some of the picture together herself, but she'd rather hear it.

“When I— when she inherited the conduit,” Eileen explains, “the dominant personality took over. Volken. For years, he inhabited her skin. Destroyed the life she’d built with her husband. Set about rebuilding the Vanguard, except there wasn’t anything left of it there. I think it was Volken who put the idea to come here in her head.”

She looks out across the mangled cityscape, unsure of how to articulate the exact sequence of events that led to Addie being separated from her parents. Or maybe she’s just distracted by how different this New York looks than the New York she remembers.

“Volken took the girl, as well as Lynette Ruiz’s boy,” she says finally. “She didn’t want him to do to Addie what he did to her when she was a child, so she fought back. Used her ability to trap his consciousness in a pair of ravens so she could take back control, but it was too late.”

Her breath leaves her nose and mouth in the form of a fine, silvery mist. It’s getting colder by the minute as the sun continues to dip closer and closer to the horizon she’s so focused on. “She broke the others out of facilities where they were being held and stormed Pinehearst’s Looking Glass site. Picked up more along the way, but only six of them made it through the gate. Daiyu, Kozlow— all of Arthur Petrelli’s test subjects set free during the crossover. They were killed holding off Petrelli’s people. Bought Gray the extra time she needed to get the children across safely, without a suit of armor.”

The conflict between selves and identification earns Eileen a stare with a cautious glint to it. It's not as if she disbelieves her story at all, or that she believes the switch in person to be a trick played by Gray — she doubts there would be slips like this if that were the case — but it's still unsettling to her that there's that overlay that happens. Emily doesn't shy a step away, but her arms come to fold over her chest. Against the cold, surely.

During the silence, she turns as well and watches the skyline. It's not one she sees often from this angle. Her attention drifts across the river to the darkened husk of Manhattan, tracing how it stands out against the changing colors of the sky.

Hearing Addie wasn't the only child that had been kidnapped causes her to turn back immediately, brow jumping up. Knowing that Volken was subdued helps relieve some of the alarm, if only just. "So Volken," A strange word to her, one that doesn't fit quite right in her mouth. "It's all his fault, then." Emily wonders, "Do you think Magnes knows that? Or that it would matter one way or another to him?"

“Insofar as these things can be any one person’s fault, I suppose,” Eileen answers. “But if he and Elisabeth Harrison had just stayed put in Gray’s world, Gabriel wouldn’t have died. The conduit would have remained dormant. Contained.”

She meets Emily’s gaze and holds it, steady, relaxed, attempting to reassure the younger woman of her good intentions with just a look.

It isn’t easy. If she was Emily, she’d have questions and doubts too.

“Then again,” she adds, “they wouldn’t have found themselves trapped there if it wasn’t for the Institute or the U.S government. The blame could go round and round forever if we let it.”

The implication being that Eileen won’t.

“I wish I had more answers than I do, Emily,” she concludes, sounding a little defeated but not without a smile in her voice. She reaches out and touches the blonde’s elbow through her jacket. “I only know that the conduit eventually destroys everything it comes into contact with, whether or not its host means to. It corrupted Gray. Given enough time, it will eventually corrupt me too.”

Just not yet.

It's clear from the glance Emily gives Eileen in return that she's only barely on board. There's no steady moral ground to anchor onto, and the discomfort — the risks — associated with that is dangerous.

"Okay," she murmurs, tone heavy. "But so far as shooting for an 'everyone's close to happy' kind of scenario with Addie — and I'll even settle for 'no one tries to kill each other' — how do we get there?" Emily's apprehension is only thinly-veiled as she looks to Eileen for an answer. Her brow furrows down as she brings her major concern to light. "Eileen, he tried to drag me off into the dark using his ability as soon as I said hello. I don't have recourse for that. If he learns where I live, if he does anything to Julie to…" she bites off the rest of the hypothetical with a very small shake of her head, looking back to the horizon.

The touch at her elbow brings her attention back, focused down on it. Never just one set of complicated problems. Emily wants to fume. She doesn't. She keeps it in.

"How much time is enough time?" she asks plainly. A thought strikes her and she finally meets Eileen's gaze again. "And Berlin? Is she also at risk of that?"

“No.” On this subject, Eileen does not hesitate. “She holds both. I feel the harmony in her— she’s special.”

There’s no elaboration, either; Emily’s recounting of her confrontation with Magnes has her mentally doubling back, expression growing as dark as the sky overhead, which would be speckled with stars if not for the oppressive cloud cover.

“Your uncle Jensen almost had him killed once,” she says of Varlane. “He’s too brash. Impulsive. Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t right.”

She gives Emily’s arm a squeeze, as she’d squeezed Geneva’s calf through her blankets back in the hospital.

“Sasha won’t let anything happen to you or Julie,” Eileen promises. “I won’t either, as long as I’m able.”

Small as it is, Eileen's firm answer about Berlin's state cuts off a branch of worry about it has any chance to grow. The comfort is short-lived — Emily pulls her arm back from the squeeze as the topic of murder is broached all too conversationally. Before she can address that, though, another surprise subject is broached.

"Sasha?" Emily bristles, her look skeptical. He's not a figure she'd put any amount of faith in, or would want to. Hearing Eileen sound so assured about his concern for her safety comes as a surprise. The skeptical slant to her brow softens as Eileen speaks the bit for hers, looking just slightly off from her.

She didn't doubt that Eileen would try to make sure nothing bad happened, but it wasn't like she was staying in the Safe Zone. That Emily knew of, at least.

So wasn't that reassurance hollow?

A forceful sigh escapes her as she forgoes addressing that out loud. "What does Addie want to do? Her dad wants to see her, and I told him I was sure things would work out. But if she doesn't want anything to do with him, then I'm going to have to find more creative ways to say no to him."

“I’m trying to find the best way to broach the subject,” Eileen says, careful, not because she doesn’t trust Emily, but because she’s seeing for the first time how heavily this burden is physically weighing on her.

“I don’t think she won’t want anything to do with him, but things could become problematic very quickly if she responds by bringing it up with Joshua herself. Or if someone else tells her Magnes is still alive, and she tries to seek him out alone. Willfulness runs in her blood.”

She tucks both her hands into the pockets of her coat. “I’ve put too much on you, haven’t I?” she asks, but it isn’t a question. What she means is: I’m sorry.

Emily can't bring herself to answer that directly, and avoids looking up in case her eyes might speak for her.

"I just wanted something to go right for once."

She brings up a hand to scratch the center of her forehead with the side of her thumb. When she turns back to Eileen, she forces a smile. Silly, naive her.

"I don't know, I'm starting to think happy endings don't exist. Sometimes you come up and are able to get a gasp of air, but then life goes right back trying to drown you." Emily just looks tired as she makes the admission. She lifts her shoulders in a shrug that holds until she adds, "I don't want to believe that. I'd like to do everything I can, so someone can…"

When her shoulders fall, her posture slumps with it. "I don't know, get their breath of fresh air or something."

The weight isn't Eileen's fault, not really. The current situation only makes up a piece of it, after all.

"Sorry," Emily asides as she glances away. "I know none of that is helpful to say. You're dealing with all this bullshit, too." She almost winces as she glances back. "And more." It wasn't Emily who had to have all the hard conversations back in Providence, after all.

“Happy endings imply there’s an end.”

That is not so in Eileen’s experience. She watches the last rays of sunlight gleam against Yamagato’s smooth metal and glass, then seemingly wink away into nothingness at the precise moment dusk becomes night.

The operative word being seemingly.

In just a few hours, its warmth will spread across the earth again, thawing the ice that clings to the trees. Streets will run with meltwater to signal the creeping approach of spring.

Eileen smiles. She’s anxious for the first wildflowers to make their appearance.

“Your government is still rebuilding the foundations upon which this country is built,” she says, “but I look around and I see a sort of light in people’s eyes that I don’t remember from before. We used to have only safe houses. Now it feels like every house is safe — at least here. That’s something.”

Any stressed retort Emily might have for that is breathed away as she considers that initial reply. It's something to give thought to over time. A change in view that pondering it might cause won't be instant, after all.

"Every day, a little more progress." she agrees. "It might not feel like much at first, but when you look back, you start to see how far things have come." She sniffs, rubbing the side of her face with one hand as she notes, "There was a lot of that kind of reflecting last fall."

"Speaking of the government, starting at the end of the month, I'll be interning with SESA." Emily's shoulders barely quirk upward in comparison to her last shrug. "I don't know what that'll bring, but it'll pay for tuition." She stills before adding to that, "And I'm still not sure what to make of them still. Dad said … it had been a SESA agent that had tried to kill you. I feel like crooked people like that aren't just one-offs."

Eileen doesn’t make any attempt to disguise the concern that flits across her wan expression at this interesting piece of news. In spite of her reassurances that things are better now than when the United States had need of the Ferrymen, she’s still mistrustful of the government in all its forms — and acronyms.

It’s probably not all Michael Lowell’s fault.

“I don’t think Lowell had murder on his mind that night,” she admits in the same breath she realizes that Avi still might not fully understand the sacrifice he made for her. Realizes, too, that it will soon be two years since she and Avi last spoke. “I— ”

The thought causes her to pause. And to falter.

She shakes her head like such a thing might dislodge the cobwebs inside.

“No, you’re right. They aren’t.”

"I plan to keep my eyes open regardless. I'm not looking forward to walking around and having 'Epstein' pinned to my chest." Her brow furrows down in a line as she works through an unpleasant realization. "It'll be the first time my last name's been out there in front of my friends. Only two of them will see it, but I'm sure they'll bring it back to the rest. Then … that'll be out."

Emily exhales slowly before putting on a smile. "At least I know they've spent time with me for me, and not because of what he did with the Ferry. How he helped them."

She grows uncomfortable abruptly, feet shifting on the ground. It was a heavy sentiment for so few words, and she's not sure why she brought it up at all. A noise like she means to speak again emits from the back of her throat, but no words actually follow.

This is a night for small revelations, isn’t it?

Eileen sets her own feelings aside, focusing on Emily’s face and the set of her mouth, imagining the unformed sentences she’s in the process of swallowing back down.

Now would have been the appropriate time to touch her, she thinks. Too late for that now.

So Eileen gives Emily space, but also her full attention.

“Forgive me,” she starts, “I’m not as sharp as I used to be. You have friends who know you both, but not that he’s your father?”

At first, all Emily can do is nod. A beat later, she clarifies, "They're Lighthouse." It takes another exhale before she continues. "I met Joe and Hailey, then Joe … dragged a whole mess of them with him when I tried to have a small get-together on my birthday last year." Her brow twitches, uncomfortable as she is amused by that memory. "It was not small after that."

Her expression softens and her head starts to shake. "Joe even brought Dad up once by name. I …"

Like she hadn't said anything then, she fails to now.

“I’m going to tell you something,” Eileen says so that no silence passes between them except for the very short moment in which she decides to commit to the unformed sentences caught in the back of her throat. “Your father prowled the halls of that castle like an old, sick dog with a short temper and a bad back. He snapped, snarled. Didn’t like being touched. He smelled like whiskey even when he was sober, which was rarely.”

There’s a point to this story buried somewhere in Eileen’s criticism of Avi, which is in itself unusual; although words she chooses to describe him are harsh, her tone is gentle and her voice soft. “I love him very much, but he was a difficult man then, and he’s a difficult man now. If they spent any time around him as adults, their glowing memories of Avi Epstein would shine a little less bright.”

Pot, kettle, black. Eileen herself is difficult. There’s a wryness behind her eyes that suggests she’s aware of the hypocrisy.

“Yes,” she says, “he helped them, and for now they’ll keep idolizing him for it. But you help people too, Emily. I wouldn’t be here if not for your quick thinking and compassion.”

Most sentences that start with 'your father' tend to end with Emily ignoring or trying to forget she's heard them, but something about the delivery keeps her from interrupting or tuning out. The criticisms, such as they are, paint a picture of what he was like at a time where she didn't know him at all. And unlike other sources she might hear them from, she's never doubted Eileen's honesty. The Englishwoman deserves an award for evasion, but when she spoke directly on a topic it never seemed to be deceitfully done.

Her jaw works in silence. When she looks back to Eileen and asks, "Only a little less?" there's very little to indicate it's a joke. It helps her avoid the indirect thank-you she's just been paid. It lets her avoid acknowledging the tiny knot of tension that comes undone in her chest, one that comes from knowing she had done the right thing that night, and having it validated.

Her voice is hoarse for a moment, but it clears quickly. "One of the kids, Squeaks, she found your journal, by the way. She's holding onto it pretty tightly. She said her and Lance had been trying to figure out a way to get your name cleared from being a traitor to the Ferry. The impression I got was they were hoping to use it to achieve that." Emily's head tilts slightly, bangs hanging away from her face as she considers Eileen.

Shining example of morality and ethics or no, she seems to believe that a worthwhile task herself, even if gone about with the wrong tools.

Eileen can’t claim she doesn’t remember what she wrote in that journal; as Sibyl, she spent hours reacquainting herself with it, tracing the tight, curvy loops of her cramped handwriting, and mouthing words that seemed to exist simultaneously on the page and in an unremembered dream.

She wishes she could say she has nothing to hide, except that she does.

Her personal thoughts and feelings weren’t just limited to her dealings with the Ferry or her colleagues within the organization. Suddenly her face prickles hot. She feels a growing knot in her stomach.

“Did they mention anything— else?” she asks carefully. So carefully.

Emily just as tactfully looks away, which might be an answer in itself. "I didn't read it," she clarifies in a tone that implies someone else has. "And short of saying, 'Yes, Squeaks, you're right — Eileen is actually alive after all, so hand it here and I'll return it to her' I couldn't exactly press for it right then."

Sorry, Eileen.

Eileen is torn between reclaiming her stolen property, or letting Lance and Squeaks travel down that road to wherever it takes them — on the off-chance they do succeed. Even so, she can already picture the collateral damage in the headlines.

Nobody else needs to read what she thinks about Sylar’s lovemaking.

Vanguard experts, too, would have a field day petitioning for an updated edition of the Wolves of Valhalla, featuring all new excerpts and citations.

The fear triggers a memory that she has the presence of mind to realize belongs to her other self: warm fluorescent lights and the elevation of the witness’ stand. A courtroom not at all unlike the courtrooms of this world during the Albany Trials. Successive questions handed down by the prosecution, each one more pointed than the last, until…

Did you, at any point during your involvement with the Vanguard, have sexual relations of any kind with any of the individuals employed by Mr. Volken?

Eileen releases a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.

“What do you suppose I should do?”

Emily blinks, because she thinks it obvious. Eileen clearly does not, which forces her to consider the opposite side of things. "How many pages would need torn out?" she wonders aloud, chancing a look back at her. It is apparently an influencing factor in her final reply.

"If it came down to it, Squeaks is capable of holding onto a secret." is added with a reluctant sigh. The more people who knew, the more risk there would be. But if she was intent on reclaiming her writing… "She may be a bad liar, but she'll insist she knows nothing. She was there with Raytech last month, still refuses to say anything about it."

“Roughly a dozen.”

Very roughly, and all explicit content aside. Eileen is unsure whether or not it’s fair to publish her unkind opinions about comparatively kind people just so she can set foot in the Safe Zone again without feeling the urge to steer looks over her shoulder.

“Tearing them out wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny, not if there’s a psychometer in the room. I hear attorneys use telepaths now. Human lie detectors. Missing pages look— suspicious.”

Emily gives a slight shake of her head. She hadn't anticipated the kids would get as far as submitting the item in a court of law or anything, but Eileen had a great point. "Then it's up to your own personal comfort level. I would say getting your name cleared isn't worth the … invasion of privacy, personally."

She shifts her weight, reaching for her phone automatically. The screen tapped to life, she tilts it in a shrug-like action while she considers the Englishwoman. "I can try to get it from Squeaks myself, or you could meet her."

“I don’t know how to explain the situation to other people without endangering my position in Providence,” Eileen says. “If you can’t convince her to part ways with it without mentioning that we’ve been having these conversations, all I need is a location. I can send someone else to delicately handle the rest.”

There's a long pause following that. The decisive nature of that statement rattles Emily, even knowing this isn't the same Eileen. It's hard to shake off that dread. And though she does enough to answer her, it's not entirely shed. "She'll dig. I'll have to give her something in order to convince her why she should give it up. She already suspects you're alive in some way, after seeing Sibyl's notes at the end. At seeing when they were dated." After another short pause, she draws in a breath and looks off, hesitant. Her phone is rotated in her grasp. The breath is expelled with another shrug-like tilt of her torso.

She can't actually bring herself to say where Squeaks lives. Not without reassurances.

Eileen understands. “All right,” she says, reluctant, unhappy, but ultimately without argument. “Please— try to discourage digging, if you can. I’ve already had Richard’s brother turn up on our doorstep, and he was lucky he dealt with the people he did, otherwise he’d be breeding maggots in a shallow grave instead of getting the help he needs.”

She must trust Emily to handle the situation, however, because she takes this emotional shift in their conversation as her cue to turn to leave.

“I’ll be at the Red Hook market two Sundays from now. Meet me by the fishmonger, round eleven in the morning?”

Discouraging any of the Lighthouse Kids from pursuing curiosities — especially dangerous ones — is something Emily would normally consider to be impossible, which is why she as a practice avoids what she'd consider to be oversharing. She'll have to get creative with this one.

"I'll see what I can do, and I'll let you know then one way or the other." she calls after Eileen, rubbing the screen of her phone against her leg before glancing back down at it again. She considers leaving it at that, but looks back again and lifts her voice again. "Be safe?"

Eileen gives Emily the slightest of nods. “And you.”

Her footsteps take her along a drainage ditch and past a crumpled barbed wire fence that hasn’t been tended to since the Safe Zone was initially established. Although military patrols aren’t common out this way, they also aren’t entirely unheard of. Out of habit, her path swings her down the cement slope and across the stream of meltwater babbling there.

The U.S. government doesn’t hunt her kind with trained dogs anymore, but there’s truth to old cliches: old habits die hard.

She disappears into the shadows of a threadbare ivy grove less than a minute later, leaving Emily alone with her thoughts and the not-so-distant sounds of civilization at her back.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License